KORAHITES; SONS OF KORAH
ko'-ra-its (qorchi), (beno qorach; in the King James Version appears also as Korhite, Kohathite, Kore): This phrase is used to denote Assir and Elkanah and Abiasaph, Korah's 3 individual sons (Ex 6:24; compare Nu 26:11). But its more frequent use, and that to which interest attaches, is in the titles of some of the Psalms.
The genealogical details concerning Korahites are rather full. In 3 places we find the list of the 7 successive generations closing with the prophet Samuel and his son Joel (1 Ch 6:31-38,22-30; 1 Sam 1:1,20; 8:2); the two in Ch mention most of the generations between Korahites and Joel. The fragmentary lists in 1 Ch 9:25; 26 connect the list with the 4 generations following Joel (1 Ch 6:33; 9:19-31; 26:1 ff), and with 2 generations in the very latest Bible times (1 Ch 9:31).
The adjective "Korhite" appears also in the King James Version as "Korathite," Kore," and "Korahite," the last being the form preferred in the English Revised Version. It is used 4 times in the singular. Once it designates an individual (1 Ch 9:31); 3 times it denotes the successors of Korahites taken collectively (Ex 6:24; Nu 26:58; 1 Ch 26:19); 4 times it is used in the plural, denoting the members of this succession of men (1 Ch 9:19; 12:6; 26:1; 2 Ch 20:19). As variants of this use, "the sons of the Korahites" appears once, and "the children of the Korahites" once (1 Ch 26:19; 2 Ch 20:19).
In these various passages the Korahites families are counted like the other Levitical families. In 1 Ch 12:6 we have an account of 5 men who are designated as "the Korahites," who joined David when he was at Ziklag--Elkanah, Isshiah, Azarel, Joezer, Jashobeam. They are described as expert warriors, especially with the bow and sling, and as being "of Saul's brethren of Benjamin." Some of them may plausibly be identified with men of the same name mentioned elsewhere. These Korahites may have been cousins of the Samuel family, and they may have resided not very far apart.
The record speaks with some emphasis of a line of Korahites doorkeepers.
In the latest Old Testament times one Mattithiah, "the first-born of Shallum the Korahite," held "the office of trust over the things that were baked in pans" (1 Ch 9:31). Shallum was "the son of Kore, the son of Ebiasaph, the son of Korah." In this expression 15 or more generations are omitted between Ebiasaph and Kore, and perhaps as many between Kore and Shallum. The record proceeds to supply some of the omitted names between Kore and Shallum. The representative of the line in David's time was "Zechariah the son of Meshelemiah" (1 Ch 9:21). In all periods the Korahites were "keepers of the thresholds of the tent." Back in the time of "Phinehas the son of Eleazar," "their fathers had been over the camp of Yahweh" (1 Ch 9:19,20). Zechariah was, in his time, "porter of the door of the tent of meeting" (1 Ch 9:21), and Shallum was still the chief of the porters (1 Ch 9:17). The record for David's time supports and supplements this. It says that the doorkeepers, according to the arrangements made by David, included a Korahites contingent, its leading men being Meshelemiah and his son Zechariah (1 Ch 26:1,2,9,14), and that Meshelemiah was "the son of Kore, of the sons of Asaph." Adopting the common conjecture that Asaph is here a variant for Ebiasaph, we have here the same abridgment of the genealogical list as in 1 Ch 9.
More interesting, however, than the fighting Korahites who claimed succession from Moses to Nehemiah, are the."sons of Korah" who were somehow connected with the service of song. One of the genealogies is introduced by the statement: "These are they whom David set over the service of song in the house of Yahweh, after that the ark had rest. And they ministered with song before the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, until Solomon had built the house of Yahweh in Jerus" (1 Ch 6:31,32). Then the writer proceeds to mention first "Heman the singer, the son of Joel, the son of Samuel," and so on, carrying the genealogy back to Korah and Levi. After thus mentioning Heman, he speaks of "his brother Asaph, who stood on his right hand," and traces Asaph's descent back to Gershom the son of Levi; and then says, "and on the left hand their brethren the sons of Merari." Of these the principal leader is Ethan (otherwise called Jeduthun), and his descent is here traced back to Levi.
In this way we are introduced to David's 3 great leaders in choral and orchestral music. Among them Heman the Korahite has at first the place of primacy, though Asaph, later, comes to the front. The events just referred to are mentioned again, more in detail, in the account of David's bringing the ark to Jerusalem. There it is said that at the suggestion of David "the Levites appointed Heman the son of Joel," and also Asaph and Ethan, "and with them" several others, "their brethren of the second degree" (1 Ch 15:17,18). The record proceeds to speak of the services of "the singers, Heman, Asaph, and Ethan," and their associates, in the pageantry of the bringing of the ark to Jerusalem. After that, it says, Asaph had charge of the services of thanksgiving and praise before the ark in Jerusalem, while Heman and Jeduthun served in the high place at Gibeon (1 Ch 16:4 ff,37,39-42). Later, the record says (1 Ch 25), David made an elaborate organization, under Asaph and Heman and Jeduthun, for prophesying with song and instrumental music.
As the records of David's time, according to the Chronicler, thus attribute to him great achievements in sacred music and song, so the records of subsequent times reiterate the same thing. David's interest in sacred music is mentioned in connection with Solomon's temple, in connection with the times of Joash and Hezekiah and Josiah, in connection with the institutions and exploits of the times after the exile (e.g. 2 Ch 7:6; 23:18; 29:25 ff; 35:15; Ezr 3:10; Neh 12:24,36,45,46). Asaph and Heman and Jeduthun led the magnificent choir and orchestra at the dedication of the temple (2 Ch 5:12). One of the sons of Asaph prophesied, and the sons of the Korahites sang at the crisis in the time of Jehoshaphat (2 Ch 20:14,19). The sons of Asaph and the sons of Heman and the sons of Jeduthun were present, and there was instrumental music and loud singing, according to the appointment of David and his associates, at the time of Hezekiah's Passover (2 Ch 29:13 ff). Singing, and Asaph and Heman and Jeduthun and David have an important place in the record concerning Josiah. And the records of the post-exilian times make the singers and the "sons of Asaph" and the arrangements of David as conspicuous as the law of Moses itself.
Add to this that the names Asaph or Heman or Ethan or Jeduthun, or the designation "the sons of Korah" are attached to 25 or more of the Psalms (e.g. Psalms 42 through 49; 50; 62; 72 through 85), and we have a body of testimony that is at least abundant and intelligible. It is to the effect that there was elaborate organization, on a large scale, in connection with the musical services of the temple at Jerusalem; that this began in the time of David, as a part of the preparation for building the temple, under the influence of the family traditions of the prophet Samuel; and that the movement continued in the generations following David, either surviving the exile, or being revived after the exile. In connection with this movement, the phrases "sons of Korah," "sons of Asaph," "sons of Heman," "sons of Jeduthun" denote, in some cases, merely lineal escent; but in other cases they denote each an aggregate of persons interested in sacred song and music--a guild or society or succession or group--arising out of the movement which originated in David's time. See, for example, "sons of Asaph" (1 Ch 25:1,2; 2 Ch 20:14; compare 20:19; 29:13; 35:15; Ezr 2:41; 3:10; Neh 7:44; 11:22) and "sons of Korah" in the titles of Psalms 42 through 49 and 84; 85; 87 through 89. Traces of these aggregates appear in the times of Solomon, of Jehoshaphat, of Joash, of Hezekiah, of Josiah, of Zerubbabel, of Ezra and Nehemiah.
If a person holds that the mention of an event in Chronicles is to be regarded as proof that the event never occurred, that person will of course deny that the testimony thus cited is true to fact. He is likely to hold that the guilds of singers arose in the exile, and that, some generations after Nehemiah, they fabricated for themselves the ecclesiastical and physical pedigrees now found in the Books of Chronicles. If, however, we accord fair play to the Chronicler as a witness, we shall be slow to discredit the minute and interfitting testimony which he has placed before us.
Willis J. Beecher